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Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Atheist Quiz

According to The Economist, 89% of Americans describe themselves as "religious" and 62% consider themselves "highly religious." As one of the most religious developed countries, six in ten adults say religion is very important in their lives and four in ten attend religious services weekly. ("The Religion Quiz," The Economist, September 28 2010)

So, a recent Pew Poll that showed a high level of public ignorance about basic religious precepts, is a bit of a shocker. The study of 3,400 Americans, conducted this spring by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, featured 32 "religious knowledge" questions ranging from "What is the first book in the Bible?" to "Is Ramadan the Islamic holy month, the Hindu festival of lights or a Jewish day of atonement?" ("U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey," The Pew Forum, Executive Summary, September 28 2010)

On average, Americans correctly answered 16 of the 32 religious knowledge questions on the survey. The highest-scoring groups were not evangelical Christians but religious minorities in America: Atheists and agnostics (20.9),  Jews (20.5) and Mormon (20.3). White evangelicals scored in the middle (17.6); white mainline Protestants (15.8) and white Catholics (16) were slightly lower, and black Protestants (13.4), Hispanic Catholics (11.6) and those who answered "nothing" in terms of religious practice scored the lowest.

The study also concluded, "When education and other demographic traits are held equal, whites score better than minorities on the survey’s religious knowledge questions, men score somewhat better than women, and people outside the South score better than Southerners. The oldest group in the population (age 65 and older) gets fewer questions right than other age groups. However, people 65 and older do about as well as people under age 50 on questions about the Bible and Christianity; they do less well on questions about other world religions." ("U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey," The Pew Forum, Executive Summary, September 28 2010)

For those of you who would like to take an online quiz, please use this link:

Now, Christians are taking quite a bit of abuse in the media for their performance on the Pew Poll. But, one must remember, various factors, other than religious affiliation (or lack of it) influence test scores. Still, I thought it might be interesting to develop a test that centered on questions pertinent to atheism. Here is the test I devised. Take it and score your paper. (The answers are at the end of the test- don't cheat even if you have no belief in a conscience.) You are also invited to leave your scores in the comments along with your religious preference. And, hey, join the blog too. You might enjoy an entry every now and then. Good luck!

The Atheism Quiz

1. ___ In a broad sense, Atheism is the rejection of belief in the existence of
a. God,  b. religion,  c. deities,  d. spirit.

2. ___  In the Far East, the belief that a contemplative life was not centered on the idea of gods began in 
 a. 6th century BCE,  b. 2nd century BCE,  c. 2nd century AD,  d. 4th century AD.

3.___ What was NOT supportive to the belief that a contemplative life was not centered on the idea of Gods?
a. Jainism,  b. Buddhism,  c. Taoism,  d. Sikhism.

4.___  America has a complex and enduring commitment to the acceptance of the concept that two or more religions with mutually exclusive truth claims are equally valid. This is known as religious

a. democracy,  b. pluralism,  c. coalition,  d. manifest destiny.
5. ___  The Pew Forum On Religion and Public Life found (2008) that the number of American people who say they are unaffiliated with any particular faith today is more than double the number who say they were not affiliated with any particular religion as children. That percentage is
a. 50.5%  b. 45.3%  c. 25.2%  d. 16.1%

6.___  Also known as apatheism, the concept in which individuals live as if there are no gods and explain natural phenomena without resorting to the divine is
a. monotheism,  b. deism,  c. pragmatic atheism,  d. atheistic dualism.

7.___ The newly elected president of American atheists is
a. George McWilliams,  b. Harley Porter,  c. John H. Bronson,  d. David Silverman.
8.___ The activist who believed organized Christianity relegated women to an unacceptable position in society, and in the 1890s wrote The Woman's Bible, which elucidated a feminist understanding of Biblical scripture and sought to correct the fundamental sexism was
a. Susan B. Anthony,  b. Sojourner Truth,  c. Lucretia Mott,  d. Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
9.___  A common principle that states that entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity and that, all other things equal, the simplest explanation for a phenomenon is the correct one. It is argued to imply that, in the absence of compelling reasons to believe in God, disbelief should be preferred. 
a. Pythagorean Theory,  b. Law of Absolutes,  c. Occam's Razor,  d. Hickam's Dictum.

10.___ Atheist Jerry Coyne raked Brown University cell biologist Ken Miller over the coals in The New Republic for Miller's claims that Christians can embrace science without apology. Coyne wrote the percentage of Americans with religious beliefs that "fall into the 'incompatible' (with science) category is
a. 90%."  b. 75%."  c. 50%."  d. 35%."
11.___ A common belief asserts the first known famous atheist was the ancient Greek thinker
a. Cicero,  b. Lucretius,  c. Diagoras,  d. Omar Khayyám.

12.___ The only epistemological idea (philosophy that investigates the origin, nature, methods, and limits of human knowledge) atheists agree on is that truth cannot be obtained through 
a. scientific investigation,  b. divine revelation or commandment,  c. human experience,  d. sensory detail.

13.___  In 1869, the word agnostic was coined with reference to the early Church movement Gnosticism by
a. Sir Arthur C. Clarke,  b. Thomas Henry Huxley,  c. W. Somerset Maugham,  d. Tom Wolfe.

14.___ The English term agnostic is derived from the Greek agnostos, which means
a. "scientific."  b. "inner understanding."  c. "after life,"  d. "to not know."
15.___ An agnostic believes human knowledge is limited to experience and God isa. beyond human ability to discover,  b. absolutely nonexistent,  c. within the human soul,  d. an alien life form. 

16. ___ The concept that government or other entities should exist separately from religion and/or religious beliefs is
a. rationalism,  b. theocracy,  c. pluralism,  d. secularism.

17.___ The country containing the largest measured percentage of people (80-85%) who identify themselves as atheist, agnostic, or non-believer in God  is 
a. Zimbabwe,  b. Turkey,  c. Thailand,  d. Sweden.

18.___  Any nonreligious "system of thought or action concerned with the interests or ideals of people … the intellectual and cultural movement … characterized by an emphasis on human interests rather than … religion is secular
a. pluralism."  b. humanism."  c. dogmatism."  d. deism." 

19.___  The belief that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known or communicated, often associated with extreme pessimism and a radical skepticism that condemns existence is
a. nihilism,  b. academicism,  c. despotism,  d. stoicism.
20.___ The founder of American Atheists who filed a lawsuit against the Baltimore City Public School System that eventually resulted in the removal of compulsory prayer from the public schools of the United States was
a. Linda T. Brown,  b. Brenda B. McColloch,  c. Clementine Black,  d. Madalyn M. O'Hair.

21.___ Modern atheism began with the
a. Industrial Age,  b. the Enlightenment,  c. Plessy v Ferguson case,  d. American civil rights movement.
22.___ A theory of ethics that implies that ethical sentences are neither true nor false, that is, they lack truth-values is known as
a. moral absolutism,  b. utilitarianism,  c. non-cognitivism,  d. egotism.
23.___ What famous Colonial American wrote Rights of Man, a major influence on the French Revolution and Age of Reason, an assault on revealed religion, which argued that man invented religion?
a. Thomas Jefferson,  b. Thomas Paine,  c. Benjamin Franklin,  d. John Adams

24.___ What country formally became atheistic in 1967, prohibiting all religious observance, closing all religious institutions, and persecuting believers, but changed the policy in 1991?
a. Albania,  b. Paraguay,  c. Syria,  d. South Africa.

25.___ According to CNN, New Atheists share a belief that religion should be
a. an individual choice,  b. against international statues,  c. countered, criticized and exposed,  d. unilaterally accepted yet separate from all government.

Answers:  1. c    2. a    3. d    4.  b   5. d    6. c    7. d    8. d    9. c    10. a   11. c    12. b   13. b   14. d    15.  a   16. d    17.  d   18. b
19. a   20. d   21. b    22. c    23. b    24. a    25. c    

BBC Series -- "Atheism: A Brief History Of  Disbelief "

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